Continuing Women in Horror month, I’m happy to host C. A. Verstraete talking about Women Who Kill!
History is full of all kinds of monsters – and some happen to be female
Human nature and society naturally have us think of women foremost as nurturers, mothers, leaders, consolers, caregivers. Then something goes terribly and horribly awry. They kill.
It’s unthinkable and unimaginable when a woman does such a thing. There’s the spinster Sunday School teacher Lizzie Borden, who supposedly hacked her father and stepmother to death with a hatchet in 1892. Unimaginable, right? The jury seemed to think so, too, (along with the lack of direct evidence linking her to the crime), so they declared her not guilty in the “trial of the century” the following year.
Even worse is the thought of a woman as a serial killer. While most are male, the idea of a woman killing again and again fills us with even more horror. And they’re not just in the past.
There’s crazed Charlie Manson’s drugged-up followers who committed atrocious acts linked with the name “Helter Skelter,” the word scrawled in a victim’s blood on a wall.
There’s the Michigan prostitute who killed seven of her “clients.” There’s the “black widow” who killed for money. Or the nursing home proprietor who killed for the insurance money.
Hormones aside, the idea of a woman turning into that kind of monster is truly frightening. Yet, that is also what makes them fascinating, like a car wreck we can’t turn away from. The truth is that no matter what horror you add to a story, be it zombies, monsters, or other creatures, nothing is as horrible as real life. Monsters can be vanquished, but the human soul has a darkness that often can’t be cleansed.
Admittedly, writing about a killer, any killer, is not for the faint of heart. I’ve seen my share of crime shows on TV, and looked at autopsy photos or read crime reports. Having grown up fascinated with old crimes and Chicago gangsters must’ve taken away my squeamishness early. Something like looking at real life crime scene photos of the Jack the Ripper or Black Dahlia killings, or reading the autopsy reports from the Borden murders never bothered me. Of course, that the crimes are distant in time and all the images are in black-and-white helps. These are crimes of the past and a part of history.
The real fascination is that the crimes remain unsolved. We are drawn to them as we can’t help but hope some clue or link can be found that’s been missed. Writing fiction, you can even solve the crime in a way. With new forensic and other technologies that keep developing, wouldn’t it be amazing to finally solve some of these crimes in real life?
* What real life crime do you find the most fascinating and why?
About Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter: Every family has its secrets… One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become… zombies?